Feb 112006

I’ve been playing with my calligraphy pens lately. I had put them away last spring when the winning bidders for the two pieces of custom Tengwar work that I put up for the Museum of Science’s winter party silent auction failed to ever actually decide what they wanted me to do for them (charity aside, who pays for something and then never claims it?). But I was sorting through some stuff on my desk a few weeks ago and unearthed the box from a stack of notes about linguistics and genealogy, so I started doodling with them a bit.

Which led to a bit of internet surfing, looking for lettering styles to play with. Which, in turn, led to the following conclusion:

What most people these days think of when they think of calligraphy is the swirly stuff that you see on formal wedding invites. This is Ornamental Penmanship, or sometimes Copperplate. And it’s beautiful. Precise. Graceful. Elegant. Difficult to do well.

And boring as all hell.

I’m sure that some people find making all those delicately-traced letters relaxing, not to mention lucrative. But the whole idea of spending hours planning and then drawing out all those spidery curls… well, it makes think about how badly my kitchen floor needs mopping.

On the other hand, I seem to find endless entertainment in playing with the letterforms of Carolingian, or Uncial, or just trying to imitate the handwriting of historical figures like Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin. I’m in love with the old long-s character, and the half-r, and the alternate letterforms in other historical hands.

Maybe it’s the history? I’m not sure, but for some reason I feel as though older lettering styles have more life in them. More personality. More presence.

And I’ve acquired a craving for a really good fountain pen. And a nice dip-pen and inkwell. And a penknife and lessons in how to cut a quill.